Thursday, December 30, 2010

What We Did Last Night (This Morning)

Last night we, me, Dale and Hillary, arrived at the ER at French hospital in San Luis Obispo around 10:30.  I started with Dr. Griffith, then he introduced me to his replacement.  He said, "How comfortable are you with having a doctor with the name Slaughter?"  I replied, "As long as he's not my surgeon, I'm OK with it."  "Good, because he's going to take it from here."  And Dr. Clinton Slaughter it was.  He was fine.  There was an orthopedic surgeon in LA by the name of Bonecruncher.  No lie.  That one I would have worried about.

So on Tues. nite I felt pain in my upper left chest.  I thought it was a muscle pull from physical therapy or moving an entertainment center that I brought home for Grammy.  But I really didn't load, or unload it.  Weird.  Lousy nite's sleep due to pain.  Did restrictive PT in the morning, but they still sent me home early.  They could tell I was 'off', which isn't easy to do for most people.  So I'm upstairs watching a movie when I had to cough up some phlegm (yes, that's the way you spell it).  It had bright red blood in it.  I called my local oncologist, who just happened to be on call, and he said I should go to the ER.  The chemo I take daily, plus the once a month infusion of Zometa, both have warnings about blood clots.  He asked me questions about whether I had a cough the past few days, I had been short of breath, had a fever, gurgling with my breathing, had a sinus of chest infection lately, all of which was NO.  More common for blood in phlegm to be from pneumonia than blood clot, but it happens.  I love the nurses at the closest hospital, Twin Cities, but have little confidence in the doctors.  That's for another time.  Dr. Malone recommended French hospital in San Luis Obispo, because they specialize in heart and pulmonary traumas in the ER and the hospital in general.  So it's a 45 minute trip instead of a 20 minute one.

The nurses and doctors asked the same questions and 20 more.  I got an x-ray and CT scan.  Ta da.  No clot.  Dr. Malone was right on, even though I didn't have any symptoms, pneumonia.  Bad enough that I was coughing up blood, with quite a bit of fluid built up in and around the lungs.  BUT WAIT, there's more.  Dr. Slaughter also reported that I had pleurisy.  That can't be, I'm only married to one woman.  That's what was causing my pain.  Let me 'splain, no, let me sum up:  Pleurisy is the inflamation of the lining of the lung's outer wall and the lung's cavity wall.  Normally, they just glide across each other as we breathe and move.  No pain.  Fluid from my pneumonia, icky yucky infected fluid, had gotten between those linings, caused inflamation, and thus pain.  So the moral of the story is, a person on chemo and with a "compromised immune system" can get pneumonia without even knowing it!  Hooray.  Another thing I can do that you can't!  So it's a Z pak for me.  5-10 days to knock out the pneumonia, with an additional 5-10 days to get rid of the chest pain from pleurisy.  Sure glad it wasn't anything serious. 

Here's the point.  I was released by Dr. Burch, the orthopedist, to chip & putt a week ago Tues.  So far it's rained almost every day, and I've been able to go once, for about 45 minutes before it started sprinkling.  Now this.  Apparently, Dale's prayers are stronger than mine.

So I'm fine and will be taking it easy for the New Year holiday.  No roller disco.  No limbo.  I hope your new year will be your best ever.  Thanks for all of your continuing love and support.  Kevin

Sunday, December 26, 2010


First off, we hope you all are having a wonderful Christmas season, and we hope that the New Year is your best ever.  It was wonderful to be home with my family, and able to really enjoy it with relatively good health.  This year I was able to get the Christmas lights up, walk most of the annual Paso Robles Vine Street Victorian walk, participate in a men's chorus for the church Christmas program, and BBQ the steaks for our traditional Richards family Christmas eve dinner.  Those are just the highlights.  Don't get me wrong, last year was unforgettable as well, thanks to the Brett and Betsy King family.  Last year Brett got us into Hearst Castle, one of our favorite places in the whole world, for a private tour.  I did it mostly in my wheel chair, but it was a tender mercy, if not a down right miracle.  A lot has changed since then.  The Kings, who already had twins Carolyn and Cameron, added the triplets, CONNER, COLTON and CALEB, who are now 10 months old.  If you think my story is a miracle, visit the Kings and get to know the triplets.

A week and a half ago I made another trip to SF to visit my orthopedic surgeon, Dr. Shane Burch.  I was hoping that he would say that I was ready for surgery on my collapsed vertebra, but it wasn't to be.  After an hour and a half in the MRI saddle, and his review of the pictures, he has decided to try other, less invasive, procedures before surgery.  Basically, the big 3, T9-11, have healed in different degrees and states of alignment.  Because they all didn't break at the same time and from a single incident, they are in different states of repair.  Also, due to my situation of being mostly bedridden for the early stages of  healing, they really haven't healed straight.  He believes my pain is primarily from the back part of the vertebra, I think they're called the facets, rubbing on the next vertebra, which is causing inflammation.  Physical therapy has helped through strengthening my back muscles to better support my spine.  If the pain continues he'll try injections first, then radio frequency oblation (sp?) to deaden the nerves causing the pain.  Then surgery, if needed.  That's the long of it.  The short of it is...that I won't be getting any more of my height back from kyphoplasty.

It was kind of funny, at the end of our appointment when he made the statement, "I want you to resume some normal activities to see how things go."  I excitedly asked, 'Does that mean I can play basketball?',  "No.  Probably never again."  'Volleyball on Thursday nights?'  "No."  'Backpacking?'  "Not yet."  'Weed whacking?'  "Definitely not!"  'Cutting wood?'  "No! (a little more perturbed)"  'I have a neighbor that's building a race car.  Can I help him?'  "Are you kidding me?"  'Nope.' "I don't want you climbing under or bending over a car."  'Golf?'  "You can golf, but only chipping and putting for the time being.  I want you to do NORMAL activities that normal people do."  'Like what?'  "Walking or riding a bike."  'You already said I could do that.'  "Well, you can do more of it."  'Thanks Doc.'  So at least I went home excited to be able to chip & putt.  And it's rained ever since.  I guess it's the Lord's way of nicely reminding me to be grateful for what I have, as I know that it could all go away tomorrow.  I don't even keep clubs in my car...yet.

One last thing about my SF trip.  I had to do an hour or so of "mobility tests" for a study that I am in for my oncologist, Dr. Wolf.  I must give huge kudos to my physical therapy team of Jen, her minions of Candice, Melissa, Caroline and almost a PT Andrea (on-DREY-a), who's now back in Nebraska.  They were really surprised at my level of physical activity, despite my back.  The best part was on one of the tests I had to stand with my back against a wall, my feet fairly close together with my heels touching each other and the wall.  I held a staff out at arms length, and slowly twisted my body, including my hips and shoulders, as far to the right and left as possible, and then they measure the results by putting marks on the floor and measuring the degrees of rotation.  The 2 assistants to Dr. Wolf for this study, Ilana and Barbara, weren't sure if they were doing it exactly right (I am one of the first to be tested for this new study), so they asked Dr. Wolf to demonstrate.  He did it, just as they had me do it, and asked, "How'd Kevin do?"  They pointed out his marks on the floor, then pointed to mine.  "That's embarrassing", he said.  I had better rotation than he did.  Thank you San Luis Sports Therapy in Paso Robles.  I'm sorry that I didn't get any pictures this time.  I forgot the camera.  Next visit is Jan 11th.  Until then, we hope you have a wonderful life.  Check that.  We hope you MAKE a wonderful life for you and everyone around you.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Comments, Clarifications & Updates

No pictures this time, so this should go a lot faster for me, and you.  I just want to first comment and make some clarifications on some of the pictures of Dale's previous post about my trip to SF.  While on my way to UCSF for an 11 am MRI they called to tell me I got bumped due to an emergency (probably some guy with cancer, the nerve), so I now had an extra 2.5 hrs. before my 1st appointment.  It was a beautiful day and SF was supposed to get up to 75 (it actually hit 78!  In mid-Nov?)  So I decided to head to the GG Bridge.  I drove across, then walked half way across it taking many pictures.  It was wonderful to stretch my legs a little after the 4 hr. drive.  It was very impressive to me, and  to the many tourists from around the world moving along with me on the bridge.  Fortunately, it was downhill back to the car or I never would have made it.

The picture of me doing the breathing tests just showed one of an hour of different pulmonary tests that were performed.  The cute young lady (Emily) in the scrubs in the picture was the same respiratory tech that helped me during my cancer treatments.  It was wonderful to see her again.  I recognized her, but she remembered my name, though we hadn't seen each other for more than 10 months.  That is representative of our experience of how all the care givers were and are at UCSF.
The MRI was re-scheduled for the next  morning and, you guessed it, it had to be canceled again.  So, as I sat in my hotel room thinking of what I wanted to do, but having learned that it shouldn't require too much walking again, I decided to ride the cable cars down to Fisherman's Wharf.  The first miracle was finding a parking space just 1 block from the cable car stop.  Again a beautiful warm day.  I sat next to a young couple from Germany who were on their honeymoon.  There were people and families from France, Italy, India, and even the US on the car.  Everyone one else but the German couple were speaking English, which I thought interesting.  The German couple were having a conversation making fun of the other tourists and their poor English and the way the others were obviously tourists, etc, and they weren't speaking in low tones either.  Any German speakers on our side of the cable car could have understood their conversation, so it was obvious that they felt emboldened by the fact that no one could understand them.  When we reached the end of the line,we all got off and began to walk in our different directions.  You know what's coming, don't you?  I said, in my still pretty good German, "Congratulations on your marriage and I hope you have a wonderful time on your honeymoon."  They just froze and stared at me.  I said, putting my pointing finger up to my mouth, "Ich habe nichts gehoert order verstanden."  Meaning, "I didn't hear or understand a thing."   I smiled.  They smiled.  And we all went away chuckling to ourselves.
As lunchtime approached, I thought, "What to do for lunch?"  There's a lot of great little places to eat along the Wharf.  Wait a minute... Why would anyone come all this way, with Ghiradelli Square right there, and not take advantage of it?  I remembered that my doctor had encouraged me to continue to gain some more weight.  It had been 8 months since my stem cell transplant, and I still had only gained 20 lbs. back.  Well, you know me.  I ALWAYS follow the Drs. orders.  So the picture captioned "Lunch", was lunch.  A dark chocolate double hot fudge sundae.  I went right from there to my labs, and I figured that I'd better fess up to the Dr. before he read the lab report.  So when he came into to see me I blurted out, "I just want you to know up front that I had a double hot fudge sundae at Ghiradelli's before coming here.  So if my blood sugar is a little high, you know why."  He didn't even hesitate in his response, "Next time you do that, call me.  I would have had you bring me one.  I had a Coke and potato chips for lunch."  And best of all, my blood sugar was not high at all.  And we lived happily ever after.  Except I never did get the MRI!
After all of my tests and visits I was able to get together with my only UCSF roommate, Dennis Lozano.  You may recall in previous posts that he was sent home (to Alaska) to die because he wasn't well enough to have a stem cell transplant.  Well, as it is obvious in the pictures, he didn't die.  He came back to UCSF and they couldn't figure out why he was still alive.  You may also recall that after many conversations about religion and church, and watching/hearing me get priesthood blessings, he asked me to give him a blessing, which I did.  He let me know right away that he was attending church every week since returning home.  Dr. Wolf has a buddy at the Mayo clinic, so they went there.  They couldn't figure out why he's still alive either.  So he's now in a study at Stanford, which made it possible for us to get together for a wonderful 3 hour visit and dinner with Marie's sister Joan, brother-in-law Dan, and sister Barbara.  Home by 11:30 that night.
Oh yea.  The picture of the nurse (Sarah) with the tray of stuff was not for labs.  That was a tray of needles containing my childhood and other immunizations.  I forget exactly how many there were.  I think 8.  They all went into my right and left arms and shoulders.  The next morning in the shower I remember pulling a stack of little round bandaids off of my arms and shoulders.  I should have counted them.  They warned me that they could make me have flu like symptoms.  One of the great lies, and she said it so convincingly.  A few days later I began to feel ill.  Then it went to very ill.  For 2.5 weeks!  Of course it was during the Thanksgiving festivities that you saw pictures of.  I recovered just in time to catch a cold that went immediately into bronchitis.  That was just after all of our company left after Thanksgiving.
There you go.  Next I'll try and get to the updates about my visit to UCSF just a week ago.  Thanks for all of your continued love and support.  Kevin

Friday, December 10, 2010

Birthdays, Medical Diagnostics, and Thanksgiving

Kevin, Candice, Cousin Chris, Aunt Skid

Kevin's famous Chicken Pot Pie Dutch Oven style.
Chris and Skid came to Pre-Celebrate Grammy's 90th Birthday!
Then Kevin went to SF for two days of Doctor visits and tests.
The Golden Gate Bridge
A Walk on the Bridge
Back at UCSF for more tests
I don't think this is the 'million dollar sticky'
Self Portrait on a cable car
What would a trip to SF be without a visit to Ghirardelli Square?
Big Blue Thing
Going up or down?
Only Kevin could get a parking space on the streets of SF!
From the top of famous Lombard Street
It looks just like it does in everybody else' pictures!
Transamerica Building?
Time for labs
Kevin hooks up with his UCSF roommate Dennis Lozano!
Kevin, Dennis, Marie, Joan & Dan Murphy, Barbara
Dennis & Marie Lozano
Our very own Shawn Hancock Thanksgiving morning at the Mud Bowl!
The Muddy Winners!
Cousins Hayden & Alexander learning about the Richards Family Landfill!

Before the feast!

So far nobody has photos of the feast itself.  I guess we were all too busy & hungry.  I'll bet Hillary has some, I'll get them when she comes home for Christmas.

After the feast, time for games

 Male bonding in the other room

Grammy, Grandpa Darryl with Hayden & Zander while Radley and Amberly look on
The kids making cards for Grammy

Dale helping Linda make Beef Stroganoff 

Our Roadrunner captured by Darrell Richards

 Our beautiful and talented friend Liz met us in the park and took family photos of one and all.  This is just one of the whole group!
Our backyard near sunset...
One of the many spectacular views from our home!
Amberly, Radley, & Ashley decorating Grammy's Christmas tree
Finishing touches, Amberly, Radley, Maddie, Ashley holding Elizabeth
I have had possession of Candice' Dyson since she moved back to Paso Robles.  I've been thinking I need my own because I'm in love with the Dyson!  So on Saturday I went to Costco with my $70 off their already great price coupon and came home with my own!  This is the before picture, brand new and empty!
EEK!  Instant gratification!  This is after Hillary did a quick once over of the upstairs and down after our company went home to get ready to put up Christmas!  Gross! 
Hillary I'm sure has some better pictures of our Thanksgiving/90th Birthday extravaganza, but she is in Orange County as is her camera, so until then this is it!  We had a wonderful time with the Crosby side of the family including the Clausens, Watsons, Hancocks, Kilbys, and Crosbys.
Sorry it's taken me so long to get to this, more to come, love, Dale